He brought a scrutiny and a critical eye to a sinfully secular hip hop culture, and a very loose and unaccountable Christian hip hop genre.
Even though Craig Lewis and Ex Ministries are fueled by a poor understanding of hip hop, culture, and God’s redemptive purposes, they still exposed things that were true and not addressed in both the secular and Christian genres.
The most obvious way that Craig Lewis gained initial credibility with people in the church was he rightfully exposes and frowns upon the intense godlessness of mainstream hip hop culture. Stevie Wonder can see that hip hop is an offense to the holy God, and too many Christians seem to be in love with, or at least not offended by, the grand world secular hip hop. In addition to rightfully exposing secular hip hop, He places Christian hip hop on blast for its many shortcomings. I have to admit that there are many things that I agree with, but his basic premise is faulty and unscriptural. Christian hip hop is not only reasonable, but biblical since God is reconciling all things to himself (Col 1:20). Of course he is not reconciling Satan or demons, but hip hop is wrongly accused of being inherently demonic. Hip hop, at its core is founded on a set of amoral artist expressions. I do not have time to unpack this now but I am releasing a book defending this issue.
He fueled a pre-existing skepticism and antagonism towards hip hop and it’s infiltration in the church.
Many people who were already opposed to hip hop and who had little or no desire to see it saved and conformed to Christ’s standards, took Lewis’ unfounded, incorrect assertions and saw them as confirmation for the distaste that they already had for the culture. While they had every right to dislike where hip hop is and what it is primarily doing, they should have allowed the Scriptures to give them a vision of hip hop no longer in rebellion to, but submitted to Christ.
Those of us who desired to teach the church about the Truth about Hip Hop were indigenous to the culture, so we looked too much like the culprits for them to trust our ability to view and report on hip hop biblically.
Unfortunately our external appearance betrayed us and made parents and pastors unreceptive to us. They could not see themselves as students to a group of teachers who looked like us. Consequently when a man that looked like the preachers that they have no problems receiving from, came with a message that further incriminated hip hop—they were all in. When we would offer seminars and workshops about hip hop, no one except the kids would come (many of them were forced). When Craig Lewis came with a message that hip hop was demonic and Christian hip hop was an oxymoron, then bishops, deacons, ministers, grandmothers, grandfathers—everyone showed up.
Craig Lewis and Ex Ministries simplify the remedy to the hip hop dilemma by getting rid of it, rather than skillfully, prayerfully, biblically, and missionally going to work to evangelize hip hop.
To engage hip hop culture and see salvation come out of it, the church would have to do what they do when reaching any foreign group that needs the gospel. They would have to send people to live among the target group. They would not send someone who knew a little Bible, but hated the target people group. They wouldn’t even send a missionary that loved but didn’t understand the people. They would train the missionary to learn the language and culture of the people, and then send them to lovingly work among the people group for the glory and advancement of Jesus Christ.
Rather than trusting indigenous Christian hip hop missionaries to work among the hip hop community, the new fad is to buy Craig Lewis’ DVD and then declare hip hop culture to be off of God’s redemption list. Sad, but true.
Craig Lewis’ powerful stories about casting out demons and people surrendering weapons and burning CDs is far more appealing than the sometimes more hidden miracle of conversion.
Craig Lewis’s DVD, and his stories, and his sermons, are full of dramatic stories and funny tales, and powerful testimonies. I will not try to judge the veracity of these, but I will say that every hip hopper that is genuinely in Christ is a miracle. Now some of us, in the still of the night, were converted from darkness to light; some in the quietness of their soul trusted Jesus as Lord and Savior and without any fireworks crossed over from death to life. Since Cross Movement has not had any encounters that make for a good action flick, some churches are not as turned on by the humble work that God is doing through his powerful message of the cross (Rm. 1:16). Help us Lord for when we are weak—you are strong.
Hip hop apart from Jesus Christ is so wicked that it is easy to believe that it is an invention of Satan, and Christian hip hop is so similar to the culture that it’s easy to dismiss it along with the secular version.
For certain Satan, who is the prince of the power of the air and has demons who are at work in the sons of disobedience, is active in hip hop but that does not make him owner or sovereign of hip hop. Satan is at work even among God’s people and he by no means is our Lord. But often people would like to credit the worst of human behavior to the devil because we forget about how wicked the natural man is. Hip hop is full of natural men and the sinfulness of hip hop is not due to a demonic origin, but rather an unredeemed humanity. Sure Satan’s uncontested influence in hip hop makes matters even worse, but that is precisely why God wants to demonstrate through Christians who culturally have visible hip- hopness, what hip hop would look like if He controlled it, rather than Satan and the natural humanity.
When Christian hip hop values and practices the same sins as the unredeemed culture, we then become a target for those who already despise our differences. My advice to my brothers and sisters in Christ who have detectable hip hop cultural distinctive is that we reduce the chance of people despising us by displaying beefy Christianity. Like Paul says, “…in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe” (1Tim 4:12).
Craig Lewis brought the churches focus to one of the most necessary subjects of our times—hip hop.
Sadly Lewis and company are a poor and unreliable source that many seem to believe because they are either unaware or skeptical of the more credible sources in the Christian community, but God still used them to bring the church’s focus to something that the church needs to understand—hip hop. Sociologists use hip hop to describe an era that was ushered in after the Civil Rights Era. The Hip Hop Era is the era that several generations will have found themselves in the midst of, and missions has often not been the churches response to this new generation. The church ought to dispatch indigenous Christian workers to the culture of hip hop, and this would require more than rap concerts. It would mean launching an intergenerational and multicultural missionary campaign to present Jesus and the life-changing gospel to a world that is plugged into hip hop like an I.V.
In a nutshell, the things that he did do, has made people forget about or not care about the damage he is doing. Some good can come out of his campaign, but there are more reliable sources on the matter. There are examples of Christian hip hop (not just Christian rap) that are pleasing and useful to the Lord. The hip hop community is a ripe field for harvest, and we know that God will continue to snatch people out of the worldly hip hop circles and place them in his body. That doesn’t mean that they will come to church in the suit, but it does mean that they will be the church, fully robed in the righteous garments of Christ. Pray for us as we seek to be exemplary Christians, and win the love and support of our Christian family. It’s bad enough that the world does not want us. Imaging if God’s elect does not want us either.